My main corollary would be: fail while you’re young and fail quickly. When it is just you depending on your success, failure is easier to take. When you have a family, employees who have families and hundreds of customers, that’s not the time.
Chris Grottenthaler is the CEO of True Health – an innovative healthcare services organization dedicated to earlier detection and management of disease. The company opened its doors in 2014 and is headquartered in Frisco, Texas, with a satellite facility in Richmond, Va.
True Health Diagnostics provides innovative chronic disease testing to medical professionals and patients with cardiovascular illness, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune and genetic disorders, among other conditions. Other services include online disease prevention programs, wellness education and nutrition plans for their patients. Under one of its affiliates, True Health Diagnostics provides hospitals with laboratory management services. This outreach program was introduced in December 2016 and is expected to be a focus for the company moving forward.
Where did the idea for True Health Diagnostics come from?
I’d been thinking about how tough it was for patients – and even some doctors – to decipher laboratory results. To be honest, I thought patients deserved better than being asked to do something as personal as giving their own blood, then being presented with a sheet of numbers that they couldn’t even understand. This is when I decided that our focus on disease categories would be driven by providing results that are easy for patients to understand, make lifestyle changes and have a good chance to be able to lead healthier lives.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m on my phone, a lot. I am in frequent, almost constant, contact with dozens of people at True Health, as well as customers. As the founder and CEO of this company, I both trust the people who we’ve hired to run their operations smoothly and on par with the best in the country, but I also am deeply involved in what they are doing that might germinate the next big idea or bring us our next big customer.
How do you bring your ideas to life?
Even though the foundation of my background is financial in nature, I’m a visual person. I love white boards. Or I’ll scratch out ideas with pen and paper, put them in columns and make notes in the margins. When I was thinking about starting True Health, that’s how I drew up which disease categories we would offer tests for first. I have to be able to see things – to see if I think something could work.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
In health care, I like that the world is starting to focus on prevention. We’re not where society needs us to be yet, in offering preventative health, but we’re racing to get there. And the people fanning the flames are companies like mine that are new to health care; it almost couldn’t come from a big health care company, because there are too many entrenched processes holding them back.
Look at the car company, Tesla. Building all that technology into a car, it was very unlikely Ford or GM could have done that. It had to come from someone who could start from scratch and view himself as a driver behind the wheel. As important as doctors are – and we work closely with physicians of all kinds – no one has more at stake in healthcare than the patient. We want to work as closely with them as we do doctors to provide crucial, preventative information that can help improve their lives. Nearly everyone wants to be healthier; we try to give each patient a unique path to get there.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I literally walk away. Sitting in the same chair, looking at the same wall art, or even out the same window, that’s not where something new comes from. I find that I have to free myself up to think by being on the move. I sometimes chuckle at what my colleagues must think: “He was just here a minute ago.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
As driven as I was, I’d tell myself, don’t be “all business, all the time.” Go out, do things with other people, get to know them better, build real relationships that don’t have anything to do with work. I wonder if my “younger self” would have been wise enough to understand that. I hope so.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I think a lot of business people use the mantra, “don’t be afraid to fail,” but I am not sure they really believe that. I do. My main corollary would be: fail while you’re young and fail quickly. When it is just you depending on your success, failure is easier to take. When you have a family, employees who have families and hundreds of customers, that’s not the time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do.
I learn about every aspect of my company. I don’t have to do this work, for instance, but I want to know how blood is drawn, I want to know how the specimen is handled, how it is shipped, everything. I try to hire the best people in the country at what they do – sales, finance, operations, legal, compliance, science, technology, communications, marketing – then I try to learn and ask questions and get to know those skills as well as they do. I consult with our company leaders and employees. After all, if things go off the rails, ultimately, it’s on me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I do things that make me uncomfortable. I know that either competitors are trying to take our business from us – or we must not be a threat to them and we’re not growing. A lot of companies say they are customer-oriented, but they just want to be. We are patient-focused. We push ourselves to have patients want to be “True Health” patients. If something is good for the patient, we do it; if it makes a patient’s life more confusing or difficult, we throw it out.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I started my first company when I was 19. Within four months, we grew to $5 million in sales. Two months later, we had to close our doors. I went from being a multi-millionaire on paper, to – and this is real – looking under the couch in my apartment for coins so I could get a 6” subway sandwich. I overcame it by learning the nuts and bolts of what I didn’t know for the next time: the importance of inventory, of a supply chain, of managing working capital. Put it this way, when I set foot on a college campus, I knew exactly what I needed to learn first.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As much time as I spend on planes, this isn’t so much an idea as it is a plea for one: If someone could invent a way to avoid passing along and catching colds, I’d be a frequent customer and eternally grateful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
This is a bit of a cheat, but the number is too coincidental not to use. At the holidays, we gave each of our 500 employees a holiday card and a $100 Visa gift card. We got very good feedback. With all the financial demands on people these days, it’s good to have something like that where you can go out, do something for yourself or your family and not feel like you should have used it for something “better.”
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
This is such an easy one. Uber, it’s changed my life. They have made getting around town, to and from airports, simple and fairly priced. It’s also a great parallel for what we’re trying to do: the old system (taxis/lab tests) versus the new. The old in both cases was unattractive, confusing, tough to manage; the new is easier, customer friendly and simple to figure out.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read “The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles.” It captured the energy around them, how crazy it was, that they were constantly under siege from their fans. But they had to find a way to retreat, to get away from that circus, to be creative and make new music. That’s the lesson for me: whether you are the world’s most famous band or an entrepreneur, you have to escape the demands of the day-to-day, step away and focus on what got you there in the first place.
What is your favorite quote?
Since my company’s in the Dallas area, I do pay attention to Mavs owner, Mark Cuban. I like his quote: “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.”
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